Back in the day when I was an awkward thirteen year old, I developed much of the thinking that accompanied me into my early adult years. Whenever I do my own inner work (which I do frequently), it’s always this boy who seems to have a decisive place in proceedings. As a near sixty-one year old, he is still with me in spirit along with many of the protective parts formed at that time, although many of these are now retired or working in a different way.
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I was thirteen in 1975. It was a hot summer that year and we had a heatwave and a drought. I lived in a small village, just north of London and the school holidays of six weeks seemed endless. I remember brown sun-damaged grass, the river drying up and a shortage of water. However, the weather was not the only thing going through a defining period. I also started to see the world a little differently and not in a truly positive way.
I spent much of that holiday, alone and isolated from the other children in the village, who I traditionally spent much of my time with, including my two brothers. That caused a conflict in my mind and as I look back now, was the first time I experienced my thinking parts in operation. Rather than playing football, cricket, war games or building camps as I had the year before, I spent that holiday intentionally alone with ‘my’ projects. I built myself a small platform in a tree in a favourite place and spent all my time reading books about English history, WW2 and the Old West. My time spent at home was summarizing these books and making books of my own. I also spent time walking ploughed fields looking for pottery and interesting stones but it was all done alone, except for my dog who was with me constantly.
I look back on that time with nostalgia and realise the freedom I gave myself. However, I also remember the comments made by my parents (especially my father) that there is something wrong with me. What he didn’t realise was that I was escaping a caretaker role that I was forced into through his actions. At thirteen, I was rebelling against that and isolating myself through escapism. The song of that summer was Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy and I latched onto that my theme.
At that time, looking back from a much more balanced perspective on life, I realise I had developed strong protective parts that enabled me to navigate my way through the dysfunction I felt. While I was not conscious of parts work at the time, I know that my firefighter part was helping me escape the shame I felt of disappointing my mother especially and the more time I spent outside alone, the more I didn’t have to face this shame. It was the year when I refused to look after my brothers while my parents were occupied (not always with work). I didn’t voice it but I left the house every day early so that I couldn’t get told to do this.They used to come and look for me but they never found me, even though I saw them.
While I was going about my solitary activities, I had feelings of shame, guilt, anger and sadness. These were tempered by thoughts of escapism and obsessive thinking. I had fear of retribution when I went home but I was largely ignored to my relief. My mother went about her day in stoic silence. As an Irish immigrant to the UK, she had a strong work ethic and emotion was something she never showed unless it was anger. My father was an emotional time bomb who played the eternal victim, even though he caused much of the upset in the family. They both died early.
I carried my mother’s ‘Catholic shame’ and all natural thoughts and feelings about certain aspects of growing up were a taboo subject. There was never talk of sex and sexuality but we knew that my father had a lot of it elsewhere. All very confusing.
This was the environment that shaped my early teenage years. That summer has always been the pivotal point of any inner work I have done with myself or through other practitioners ( I often book a number of sessions with therapists of different methods). It taught me that my manager voices were very strong at that time, working in unison with a strong firefighter part. What they were all doing was protecting me from feelings of shame and worthlessness that I felt at the time. Feelings that stayed with me for a long time.
What has this left me with? I developed a codependent part of me with a strong protective nature around women (mirroring the relationship with my mother), I distanced myself from men generally and the competitive aspect of male relationships (mirroring my relationship with my father and brother) and I developed a strong productive, workaholic side of me that told me that every minute spent not working was a wasted minute. I enmeshed myself in relationships but when in them felt lonely and wanted to escape, as I often did into the countryside, hiking alone.
Thèse days, I have worked through a lot of that. I first experienced parts work in 2005 and it was a revelation for me and made sense. I recognized that my thirteen year-old carried a lot of exiled burdens and a major part of my history (I don’t remember much before then) and he was the key to me dealing with my thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses. Since then, it has been a case of daily practice, especially around codependency and the need to fix. Metaphorically, I have spent time with that young boy, sitting in that tree, walking those fields and listening to that song. He comes with me when I am hiking and I share stories with him of what will await him. I am someone who he never had (or wanted) at that time.
Much work had to be done before I gained access to him. I needed to deal with the protective parts who weren’t so keen to let him into the light, thinking my system might be overwhelmed. In a process of recognizing and acknowledging the history burdens that they carry, I have allowed them to find peace and ‘new’ jobs.
I am more content with myself now than I have been for a few years on a personal level. My Path To Freedom quest to manage codependency in my life continues but I feel well equipped to face it. I am not lonely anymore, even if I am alone and embrace my individual self, leaving me space to be curious and compassionate about others. That thirteen year old could never have dreamt of such a situation.